Reflections on Podcasting Workshop

February 1, 2009

I apologize ahead of time for this 1000 word monster post.  I’m still trying to figure out how to be a better presenter of this material.  If you have some insight, please share it.

Podcasting PlateauIt’s reflection time again. This weekend was the regional Teachers Teaching with Technology Conference, and I signed up to present a session on wikis and a session on podcasting.  I have taught several podcasting workshops since 2006, and none of them have been as good as I wanted them to be.  The question I’m pondering is, “Can teachers learn to podcast from a workshop?  What am I doing wrong?

My first exposure to podcasting was at a preconference session led by Karen Fasimpaur at the Hot Springs Technology Institute.  In that workshop, Karen explained what a podcast was, we discussed the educational applications, we learned basic Audacity techniques, there was time to record and produce our MP3 file, and then some samples were played for the group.  Little emphasis was given to RSS feeds or how to publish the content.  Karen’s workshop was a great intro to voice recording and audio editing, but it wasn’t podcasting by the current definition.

The following semester, I was asked to provide a podcasting workshop for the Arkansas Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.  Because I hadn’t worked much with podcasting over the summer, the empahsis of that workshop was on audio recording and editing as well.  The participants seemed satisfied.  They all left with their very own MP3 recording and the ability to repeat the steps, but I felt that something was still missing.

I thought Google knew everything…

When I set out to produce my own podcast, I recorded my pilot episode and then tried to publish it.  I had my MP3 file posted to our school web server.  I then started trying to figure out how to do this RSS thing.  I knew that I needed to host a feed file that pointed to my audio content, but that was the extent of it.  Searching in various ways for “how to create podcast feeds” brought me to several XML tutorial sites.  They apparently wanted me to learn XML and then write my own feed.  Not happening.

After searching for some time, I found Podcast Blaster.  It’s a rudimentary feed generation tool that’s simple to use, but it has its drawbacks.  If you put an apostrophe (‘) in your feed anywhere, it breaks.  I found it to be better than writing my own XML, so off I went.  I created my feed, posted it on the server, and then tried to subscribe with iTunes.  A few tweeks later, I was up and running.  Only after about Episode 5 did it get old having to go online to make a file, download the file, FTP it to a web server, and then check that nothing was broken.

A couple of months into my podcasting career, I found out how to use a blog to post links to audio content and then share the blog feed for use in iTunes or Juice.  Too little too late… Folks had already started subscribing, and I couldn’t change my feed location.

So what does all of this have to do with Friday’s workshop?

It took me nearly a year to pick up what I know about podcasting.  I know that it’s impossible to expect a workshop participant to walk in the door at 9:00 AM knowing nothing and walk out that afternoon and know everything.  What I do expect, though, is that they understand what a podcast is, be able to record and edit with Audacity, know that an MP3 file sitting on a web server isn’t by itself a podcast, and have at their disposal several resources to help them get their feed published.  So far, I haven’t been successful in getting all of those accomplished in one sitting.  Refer to my previous comments about the Henderson session.

T3 Listing

I only had a 90 minute block for this conference, so I decided to focus on the publishing phase of the podcasting process.  My hopes were that 10 – 15 of the 400+ participants had experienced a workshop similar to the ones described above and that some of those would come to see how to finish the process.  Over 30 showed up.  Roughly 5 of them were the audience I was looking for, 10 more were interested and taking notes furiously.  A good part of the group came because it was something other than a calculator workshop, and then there were the 3 or 4 who had their own discussion the entire time, pausing briefly when I asked a question of the group.

I’m not a fan of paper handouts.  I prefer to direct participants to my wiki where information and links are posted and updated.  For this workshop, I made an exception.  I gave them a one page front and back resource sheet listing the address of my wiki and web addresses and descriptions for various other resources such as Podcast Blaster, Blogger, Drop.io, Gabcast, etc.  Each resource had a description and a location for them to take notes.

Before I started with the handout, I played Podcasting in Plain English and we discussed the value that the subscription model provides.  I gave a slightly more detailed explanation of how the subscription process works, and then I showed them how the various tools can help in their own way.

I fear that many of the people went away wondering what in the world I was talking about.  There were the 3-4 participants who “got it” and asked some excellent questions.  For the rest of them, I really didn’t have a  good feeling about the ordeal.

I have tried to deliver this content several ways, to several different audiences, and I have never felt great about the outcome.  Is it me?  Is there a better way to teach podcasting that can be accomplished in a day?  I’d like to think that each educator in the audience took away something useful.  Thoughts?

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One Response to “Reflections on Podcasting Workshop”

  1. titeachers Says:

    Great information on podcasts! We are glad to hear that you were both able to attend and present at the 2009 Teaching with Technology Conference. Several of our contributors at the TI Teachers Lounge were also able to attend the conference. A few of our contributor’s video blogged about what they learned and their overall experience at the conference. To check out what they thought of this years conference visit: http://timath.com/blog/?p=528


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